Wednesday, July 28, 2010

the stillness is the move

Sometimes you have to write, you are compelled to let the words out, and other times you have to not write, keep everything inside, gestate, let things settle and become sensible. Or in this case, you have to keep silent because otherwise all that will come out is an incoherent meeepzs! In other words, too much has been going on and it has been too overwhelming.

And my coping mechanism has been to go back to what I know best. Which might be words, but is mostly playing it close to the vest. Don't ask me. I can't tell you. Or more accurately- don't ask me. I won't tell you. These things, these confusions, these mazes and labyrinths, they are of my own design, and they are altogether mine. About such bewilderment, I am a bit selfish.

Only because I don't know how to put them into the right words. The words are there, but they are like clouds above my head, and if I reach to pull them down into print, they will dissolve to fog or sprinkle down rain. I have to leave them floating for now, I have to let them stretch out against the bright blue sky.

Too much, and not enough to tell, it seems. I am going to San Francisco next week. For a month, I will pretend I live there again. Except I will be doing a poor performance. My luck, well, who am I to complain about bad luck, because really, in the scheme of things, my luck has been nothing to bemoan. But there is a certain poetry in this, returning to the city in which I felt most me at one time, only to find myself in negotiations as to how many weekends I can leave San Francisco. Seriously? Seriously. Who is this person, having these negotiations, navigating these waters? Surely not me. Every time there is such a discussion, every time the chess match resumes, I am split wide open. One half of me finds this hilarious, wholly amusing, and rather revels in the absurdity of it all. The other half balks, is horrified, and wonders how it is possible that so much energy could be expended on something not entirely of my own making. It occurs to me- everything has been about me first for so long that I haven't a good handle on the concept of compromise.

And this, in turn, sparks a whole new line of thought. Pied Piper and I were chatting about this noise, and I had made a passing remark about how this relationship foolishness stopped stressing me out once I realized that no one can really dismantle me anymore. No one has that sort of power over me anymore, except perhaps for me. He thought it was a rather obvious thing, apparently. But to me, it was a revelation. And it took all this time to see that I'm not her anymore. No one even knows her anymore, so no one else would bother to notice. They don't know that she used to bend over backwards to make things work, took everything on her own shoulders, and then would, wounded and saddened, sit waiting for a call that never came. To write it down now, to put the words down now, well, of course, she is long gone. I wouldn't recognize her either. I used to think I would be sorry, the day that I saw her disappear. I used to think that, despite her stupidity, there was a kind of romance to it, the way she was unswerving in her devotion. And then comes one more revelation- she is not really gone. She just got a little more selective, and she became me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm breaking my back but it's all good

My latest line has been that, if you catch me in September, you'll find a very relaxed and well-adjusted person. One of my more blatant lies, or delusions, depending on who it is exactly I am trying to kid. Medical school, and disturbingly enough, yes, the entire process of medical training (and possibly medicine as a career) is a series of hoop-jumping exercises. Take this test, pass this rotation, apply to this, interview for that. Boxes must be ticked, deadlines must be met. It seems interminable, and in some ways it is interminable, which can sometimes be a tough pill to swallow. But, on the other hand, I'm told that one becomes more accustomed to it over time.

Your fourth year of medical school, I am told, is supposed to be some golden, magical time though. Once you've cleared the more unwieldy points, it is supposed to be all relaxation and a time to recover from some of the rigors of third year as well as a time to hibernate before the terror of internship besets you.

STB, aka my sort-of-bf-person-I-don't-know-don't-ask-me, was telling me the other day that he dislikes this year of medical school. He likes having work to do, feeling useful, knowing that what he is doing is serving something besides himself. It is probably one of the many reasons we have gotten ourselves into this mostly pleasant mess. I know what he means. I felt far more content a month ago, when I was working in the hospital and was actually useful to the fellows and residents, than now, when I have a break to study for yet another stupid standardized test.

And I know that, for all my talk, come September, I will fill all kinds of things into my free time. Research projects, teaching projects, baking projects, knitting projects and (yes, worst of all) relationship projects. And I seem to have a knack for making even the most universally acknowledged blow-off rotations into something I take seriously. I don't have it in me to be a slacker in the hospital, which is probably why I ultimately belong there. And moreover, I think I'm just not someone who is content to coast along at one level. Despite how stressful and aggravating it can sometimes be, I think it's ingrained, this need to keep pushing.

The only thing I have managed not to push, miraculously enough, is STB. Once I realized that I had no need to be with him, suddenly everything was a lot less complicated. I am still not over the moon at the idea of becoming attached to someone at a time when everything is transient and everyone is looking to head elsewhere, but these things often have little to do with choice. Still, I feel very confident that I cannot be crushed, at least not in the way I have been in the past. That seems to provide me with a lot of calm.

Also, there is a certain simplicity to it that I can only explain by quoting a middling movie:

Willie: He makes you happy?
Andera: Yeah. I look for that in a man, you know. The ones that make me miserable don't seem to last.
Willie: Right.
Andera: You know, there are four words I need to hear before I go to sleep. Four little words. "Good night, sweet girl." That's all it takes. I'm easy, I know, but a guy who can muster up those four words is a guy I want to stay with.

Go ahead, laugh it up, I acknowledge it's fairly cheeseball. And with that, I return to the drudgery of memorizing a whole lot of minutiae.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

and your earth moves beneath your own dream landscape

It should be noted that I am not from Ohio. However, EBF doesn't lend itself quite as poetically to song lyrics. So I make do with The National's latest. The song is ostensibly about everything that comes along with going back to the place where you started, something near and dear to my heart. But it's also chock full of such beautiful lyrics, I can hardly stand it. Lofty imagery like I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees and the simple depth of I never thought about love when I thought about home.

Recently, people have been asking me if I am moving back to the East Coast, or more specifically, if I want to move back. It's a difficult question for me to answer. A part of me does, very much so. The very reason I left the East Coast turns out to be the reason I ponder going back. When I left, I wanted to be free, I wanted to sever the bonds that were keeping me tied to place. And I did, and it's meant everything. But I am undecided as to whether this weightless floating and this wandering is what I want forever.

It may just be the lot of those of us who could not stay in one place for whatever reason. There are more of us than there used to be, in this modern age. And I suppose that whenever I think about the question, it always comes down to home, the very concept of it. I don't really have a place I would call home. When I go back to EBF, I have a strong sense of my history and from where I came, but not of home. When I go to San Francisco, I remember fondly everything the city did for me, how it would envelope me in an embrace of fog on pensive nights. But I can't be sure I belonged there, can't be certain that going back would mean I had found my home.

That is when I come to the reality, which complicates things. Home, for me, is people. It really and truly is. When I am with certain people, I feel more at home wherever I happen to be geographically. It complicates things, of course, because those people are not all conveniently lumped together in a 10-mile radius of each other. So will I move to the East Coast? Perhaps. I have some sense of home there. And in Ohio. And in Pennsylvania. And in Houston. And in San Francisco. As usual, nothing can be decided just now, but the decision will become clear when it is before me. Or so I hope.

In the meanwhile, take a listen to this song, and grow a little wistful about home.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

one life stand

Well, well, well, this is interesting. I could write about some relationship (blech) hungama, but that is not where my head is these days. Yes, indeed. I find medicine more interesting than determining whether or not I am making a gigantic mistake getting tangled up with some clown.

You see, it is normally quite easy to distract me from matters of science and medicine, believe it or not, but there are two rather amazing things happening at the moment. First of all, despite what I just wrote, I am not involved with a clown. That, in and of itself, is rather amazing, because, seriously, how often does that happen? (I mean, but, sadly, it should be noted that this situation is not clown-free: I may be the clown this time around). Secondly, it turns out, lo and behold, I really am devoted to what I am doing.

Despite how that might seem an obvious thing from the outside, and despite how sometimes that also seems plain from the inside as well- still, there is something I have learned about certainty. You can be certain of something in the moment. You can mean something when you say it. It doesn't mean you'll always be sure; it doesn't mean what you say is cast in stone. The best decisions, it seems, are the ones you can revisit again and again. And though your reasons may be different, though your perspective may have changed, it turns out that, when you do the new math, look at it from the new angle, it was still the right choice.

Which is how I seem to feel at the moment. There is so much that is frustrating about the medical education process. Other people can probably go into that more eloquently. Yet I can say, once again, there is nothing I would rather be doing. The deeper I wade into it all, the further away from the esoteric nature of books and tests, the more I feel it enveloping me, in the best way possible.

There is a running joke, and it is not altogether funny or a joke, that one should avoid getting sick during the month of July. The hospital becomes chaos- new interns are starting, and the interns from the previous year are suddenly considered residents who have more decision-making capability. No one is very sure of themselves. Last week, I was working on a team with a new fellow, a new intern, and a visiting medical student from another country. Was it my role as a medical student to train any of these people or even to help them? No. But I cannot handle inefficiency, and I cannot handle watching people flail. There is a theme of 'throw 'em in the deep end and see if they swim' rampant in medical education that I find wholly unnecessary. What's more- aside from treating patients, there is little that is more satisfying than teaching someone something useful.

I suppose, when everything gets boiled down to its essence, that is what does it for me. That is why medicine is probably now a permanent part of my life, never to be discarded in its entirety. I know I have this need to be useful. And medicine always seems to find some use for me.

As for the non-clown situation, well, as I said, not anywhere near as interesting. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, though.